What do the terms קדוש (Kadosh), קדושים, קדושה, and קדיש really mean?


8 Answers 8


I understood the term to mean designated, differentiated or set aside for a purpose. So Kiddush-קידוש would be the verbal declaration that designates the day of Shabbat and differentiates it from all the days that precede it (see the Rambam on the Mitzva of Kiddush). The קדושת היום would be the legal designation of the day. The בית המקדש is a place designated to recognize ideas about God. An animal can be made הקדש, thus designating it for the purpose of 'לה (recognizing ideas and עבודת ה). A קדשה is a woman set aside for sexuality (As YS quoted Rashi "הקדשה: מקודשת ומזומנת לזנות"). when we say God is קדוש I believe we mean he is differentiated from all his creations.

  • What's the source?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 10:09

The dictionary compiled based on the works of Rav Hirsch gives an extensive list, divided by sense like a modern dictionary. However, the bibliographic element of that entry mirrors closely the listing, divided by binyan, of Ibn Janach's Sefer Hashorashim (Michlol).

קדש - prepare for task, dedicate all resources

1: preparing
2: reserving, prohibiting for use
4: making independent
5: inviting, summoning
6: being extremely moral
7: being immoral
8: sanctuary
9: home of consecration
10: palace

Note that items #6 and #7 are not contradictory. Although the usage of #7 in the Torah is probably euphamistic, this is a Biblical dictionary so it is accurate of it to list that as a separate sense of the root.

  • A kadash is a prostitute tamar was called that Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 14:11
  • וַיִּשְׁאַל אֶת אַנְשֵׁי מְקֹמָהּ לֵאמֹר אַיֵּה הַקְּדֵשָׁה הִוא בָעֵינַיִם עַל הַדָּרֶךְ וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֹא הָיְתָה בָזֶה קְדֵשָׁה: Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 14:20
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    Rashi says הקדשה: מקודשת ומזומנת לזנות You realize it really means separation in all cases just contextually separated for either good or bad Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 14:21

commenting on the Rashi quoted in this answer (38:21), The Mizrachi says that it is "the concept of ready and prepared" - "הכנה והזמנה"


The very Basic answer is separated from matters of Sexuality and Sin as the first Rashi in Kedoshim says:

קדשים תהיו: הוו פרושים מן העריות ומן העבירה, שכל מקום שאתה מוצא גדר ערוה אתה מוצא קדושה, אשה זונה וחללה וגו' אני ה' מקדשכם, (ויקרא כא ז - ח) ולא יחלל זרעו אני ה' מקדשו (ויקרא כא טו) קדושים יהיו אשה זונה וחללה וגו' (ויקרא כא ו - ז):

The Ramban who first says he does not completely agree with Rashi and says it is a broader thing. similarly says to be separated in things which are allowed to you like wine and he quotes a gemara how the Rabbi would limit themselves in conjugal relations similar to Rashi:

ציווה בדבר כללי שנהיה פרושים מן המותרות. ימעט במשגל, כעניין שאמרו (ברכות כב א): שלא יהיו תלמידי חכמים מצויין אצל נשותיהן כתרנגולין, ולא ישמש אלא כפי הצריך בקיום המצווה ממנו. ויקדש עצמו מן היין במיעוטו, כמו שקרא הכתוב

The one thing they both seem to agree on is it is separation from what is Muttar to you.

The Rambam (Principle 4 of the Rambam’s introduction to the Sefer haMitzvot) says it is a a general statement that describes the effect of doing a mitzvah.

  • "separation from what is Muttar to you" - Based on context, doesn't the word "mutaros" here mean specifically "women who are not arayos"? It seems like a stretch to say that mere separation from permissible things is the general definition of k'dusha.
    – WAF
    Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 12:22
  • 2
    Generally this seems to be an explanation of the /mitzva/ of "k'doshim t'hiyu" more than a definition of the term "kadosh" in the broad decontextual sense.
    – WAF
    Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 12:24
  • YS, שכל מקום שאתה מוצא גדר ערוה אתה מוצא קדושה defines an important aspect of גדר ערוה. Its converse would have defined [an aspect of] קדושה. In other words, even though one tends to find excellent questions and answers on mi.yodeya, that, to my chagrin, does not imply that mi.yodeya is the definition of "excellent questions and answers."
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 14:29
  • @IsaacMoses Did WAF used to be YS?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 7:12
  • @DoubleAA, no; SimchasTorah did.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 13:56

When teaching my first graders the translation and meaning of קדש I mentioned three words:

  1. Separate
  2. Different
  3. Special

When all three are combined, you have the concept of holy.


The English translation of קדוש as "Holy" is hopelessly frustrating to me, because it only begs the question. (What is "Holy" supposed to mean?!)

I think Isaiah 6 provides us with the best material to understand the meaning of קדוש. Adonai is exclaimed to be קדוש (triple exclamation) to which Isaiah responds, "Woe to me, I am a man of unclean lips." קדוש therefore has to describe a particular quality of Adonai that evoked Isaiah's recognition of personal uncleanliness and impurity of heart. – My guess, then, is that קדוש means something like "intrinsically pure".

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    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 13:02
  • 2
    MY places a lot of emphasis on sources (after all most of us don’t know you personally). Maybe you will be interested by something I wrote to help you understand the site "A beginner’s guide to MY - How is this site different from other Judaism sites” ? I hope you'll look around and find other Q&A of interest and stay learning with us.
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    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 13:02
  • @mbloch He explicitly said that this is his own hidush.
    – Lee
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 23:11

Berachot 8b:

אני צויתי למקודשי תני רב יוסף אלו הפרסיים המקודשין ומזומנין לגיהנם:

"I have commanded to my קדש ones (Yishayahu 13:3)--" Rav Yosef taught: These are the Persians, who are separated (קדש) and prepared foor Gehinnom.

When taken with its usage in Torah, we find that the root, קדש means 'separated for a special cause."


Kadosh is beyond comparison,beyond our grasp~ Isaiah 40v25. Kadosh is awesome Psalm 99:3; 40v25. Kadosh is righteous~ Isaiah 5v16. Kadosh is G-d's chosen ~Numbers 16:7. Kadosh is fervent~ Isaiah 5v16

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    This seems to be more a list of usages than a definition.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 3:45
  • Kadosh in many of those cases is a noun, used to stand in for G-d.
    – user9907
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 21:33

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